Driving to Spain, Asturias, Oviedo

The Town Hall Oviedo
The Town Hall Oviedo

A quick reminder of the last post maybe needed.  We have been kindly loaned a car and have decided that instead of wasting money renting a car in Spain and paying for flights that we would drive from the UK to Spain; a trip we have made in the past and are happy to complete again.

We departed Wolverhampton around 16:00 as we had to make our ferry from Dover at 02:30 in the morning and due to it being a Friday it was suggested that we gave at least seven hours for the journey and to expect long delays.

We met only a couple of delays and stopped off for some dinner off that boot of the car before setting off again and reaching the check-in at Dover by 00:30.  We had two hours to kill and apart from adding our headlight deflectors there was nothing much to do except trying to sleep as we had a long journey ahead.

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The cruise over to Calais came and went; luckily we managed to get some sleep amongst the torturous screams of what seemed to be 100 children.  Before we knew it we were called back to car to continue our journey through France and onto Spain.

If you have ever driven through France you will probably agree that it is a somewhat drab experience and it is not until you reach the border to Spain that the land scape becomes interesting.  I know that France is a stunning country and it is a shame that whilst passing places such as Boulogne-sur-Mer, Abbeville, Rouen, La Mans, Nantes and Bordeaux that we could not stop, but we had already experienced how uncomfortable it is sleeping in the car and we just wanting to make it to a bed and the comfort of Carlotta’s home.

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Tiredness crept in 3 hours into our trip as I had not slept for nearly 24 hours. I have found through experience that the first 5-6 coffees may make a difference to alertness but after that there is no point in drinking more as all you feel is sick.  We had covered 400 miles before pulling over at a French service station and sleeping 4 hours.

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After a much needed break we carried on through France looking at the same monotonous land scape with only the money grabbing tolls to distract / upset us.  It cost us over £100 pounds in French tolls alone.  I may complain but actually the roads are good and can you believe that we hit no traffic at all?  Take a look at the below photo.  Can you spot the difference?  One shows rush hour into London and the other shows rush hour on one of the main roads into Oviedo, the Capital of Asturias.

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We enjoyed greatly our drive through the North of Spain.  Nothing had changed since the last time we drove these beautiful roads.  The scenery is stunning.  You follow the Picos de Europa though out your journey  with dramatic cliffs on your left and the Atlantic on your right.  The roads are empty, smooth and dotted with spectacular bridges that cross sleepy winding rivers.  Apart from unbelievable fatigue I felt happy and at piece.  I love this part of Spain, I love everything about it and we have not got to the best part.

Entering Spain
Entering Spain

We made Carlotta’s house by 16:00 Spanish time and were kindly welcomed by her father (Carlos) and her Mother (Maria).  There were a few reasons for coming to Oviedo, one: to spend time with family and friends, two: I need to improve of my Spanish and three: to look for a house / apartment for the future.

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Since I first arrived in Oviedo I knew it would be a city I would be more than happy to call this home in the future; maybe the time is nearly right.  It is nice to know that since my last visit nothing has changed.  Oviedo is immensely historic, founded as a city in 761.  It is a clean city being awarded several times as Europe’s cleanest city.  You can still get a coffee for 0.78p and a pincho for the same price.  I have breakfast out every morning and it costs me no more than a small Starbucks coffee in the UK and tastes much better.  You can walk around the city at any time at night and not worry when you here footsteps behind you.  The food and wine are exquisite.  Life is based on the streets and it is not uncommon to see young children playing without supervision; why would they need it, even at 23:00hrs? Girls between the ages of 7 to 13 are still allowed to be children and not dressed up in clothes that make them look like 18 year old mini whores and that is so prevalent in other western Cities.

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I could carry on listing why this city is so spectacular but it is better that you come and see it for yourself.  Outside the City the sea awaits only 20 minutes’ drive away  at Gijon.  The Picos de Europa creates a stunning back drop and offer unbelievably walks and other outdoor pursuits.

Anyway, I hope the photos do this fantastic city justice.  We also travelled to Avilez and Gijon; a few photos are included.  Enjoy.

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A Weekend with Pedro’s Family – 22nd / 23rd September

A Weekend with Pedro’s Family – 22nd / 23rd September

We drove to Cabanas De Viriato on the Saturday morning to spend the weekend with Pedro’s parents Luciano and Amelia in a beautiful house.

We arrived to this fantastic house that belonged to their Grandparents originally.  The house was primarily used as a winery and some of the pressing equipment still exists.  Within the grounds they grow apples, peaches, and grapes, they are grown all naturally and tasted better than the apples I used to buy in Waitrose.  The house comprised of eight bedrooms, two kitchens, a swimming pool, and numerous other areas.  The gardens were amazing with orchards surrounding part of the garden.  You could easily split some of the areas up and sell part of the house for a rural Portuguese retreat for families.

  

The house had been tastefully restored by Luciano and Amelia 5 years ago and it was a credit to both.  Even though the temperature outside was 31 degrees centigrade outside the thick brick walls allowed the house to stay cool inside.

We were shown great hospitality throughout their stay.  The cook (Fernanda) produced such amazing dishes that were traditional and so tasty.  We asked Luciano if we would take the cook with us but he declined.  Wine was another treat. I have never tasted wine as good as the wine produced by the family and Luciano kindly sent us away with two bottles which will be consumed on a special occasions as you cannot buy it in the shops yet.

 

A lot of the family joined us in the evening and in total there were 11 of us for dinner and evening drinks.  We were there to also celebrate the Birthday of Luciano and Joaquim (Pedro’s brother-in-law).  It is lovely to see the family get together and experience such a Portuguese setting. After our dinner of Carne a Alentejana (Rice with pork and clams covered with coriander) we sat out on the terrace drinking plenty of Portuguese Brandy – Agua Ardente.  It amazes me how well all the Portuguese speak English, even the youngest children.  In Portugal compared to Spain they do not translate films and TV soaps to Portuguese but use sub-titles only, this enables them to have much better understanding of English and they certainly spoke better English than my Portuguese, even after a few drinks.

  

  

The kindness and hospitality shown from all the family towards Carlotta and me was fantastic and it is a weekend we will not forget in a hurry.  It was a shame we had to leave and hopefully we will again be able to stay with such kind people.

I have included some photos that I hope give you an idea of the place we were staying,  Click on the images to make them bigger.

On the way back from Pedro’s family we stopped off at Coimbra, which is a major University town boasting the oldest university in Europe.

 

  

Porto to Figueira De Foz – 19th September 2012

Our main reason for heading to Figueira De Foz was to meet an old close friend called Pedro who had to answer for introducing Carlotta and me 10 years ago at college in Birmingham.  Pedro had kindly offered to put us up in his apartment for a few days so we were both looking forward to a break.

As mentioned in the previous blog we left early and did not pay for the night in Leixoes, one because nobody was around to take our money, two, because I had to climb over a gate to get in and out of the pontoon and three, because they closed early the night previously.

We set sail at 07:00 into a misty morning with no wind.  It looked like we would be again motoring for the day even though the forecast had stated 10 knots of wind.  After 1 hour into our journey we hit a thick bank of fog and this stayed with us for 5 hours.  Luckily there was no much traffic around but the concern in these waters is the amount of lobster pots that you cannot see until you are nearly on top of them.

Despite the fog and the motoring all went well with the journey and in the afternoon the fog cleared and we made sight of the Portuguese coats again.

We arrived into Figueira at 19:45 and were welcomed by the friendliest Harbor Master who kindly directed us to our pontoon.  The facilities here and the marina are great.

We met with Pedro and went for dinner.  We plan to stay here until next week until the wind picks up and we then head to Lisbon.

Miles: 66.3

Engine: 11 hours 48 minuets

Total Miles: 1,435

Lat: 40’08.84

Lon: 08’51.59

 

 

Baiona to Porto – 18th September 2012

It was time to leave Baiona to head to our first Portuguese town.  We sadly left our anchorage at Baiona, which had been our best anchorage since we made this journey with no waves and no tide; it was also quite popular.

We managed to leave early before the sun rose.  We expected some wind but not enough and we quickly settled into a day of motoring anticipating to make Porto by 19:00.  My smoke / steam problem came back after an hour of motoring so I had this to occupy my thoughts for most of the day.

Once we had reached the Spanish / Portuguese border the wind picked up to 10 knots from behind so we eagerly poled-out the genoa and set up the main.  We were happily making 5 knots and continued to sail for the next 5 hours. Next we lowered our Spanish courtesy flag and hoisted our Portuguese flag; poor Carlotta.

 

 

We had heard from several people that there was a new marina in the River Douro but it was not listed on the almanac.  This marina would have been closer to the city of Porto instead of going out and using Leixoes.  We tried to call Leixoes marina to see if the marina in Douro had been completed but they were not too helpful.

We approached around 19:30 but as the time had changed back by an hour we were loosing light but continued a further 2 miles to the entrance of Douro.  At this point I began to loose confidence in this decision, the entrance was difficult due to a large swell pulling us into the harbor wall so we decided to turn back and head to Leixoes.

It was dark by the time we arrived so we had some dinner.  The office had closed and would not be open in the morning so we decided to make a quick escape the next morning and not hang around as it was not the most attractive of places.

Miles: 70.7

Engine: 7 hours 24 minutes

Total Mileage: 1,367

Lat: 41’71. 14

Lon: 08’ 42. 31

 

 

 

 

A Day Baiona – 17th September 2012 (The Last Spanish Town)

A Day Baiona – 17th September 2012 (The Last Spanish Town)

We slept in until around 11:00 for some much needed sleep.  It was a good decision to spend a day here as there was some maintenance work to carry out that we had not had chance to do in Bouzas.  Our engine has started smoking a bit and I still cannot clearly verify if it is grey, black or blue smoke, all I know is that there is smoke and I am not relaxed about it.  I did some reading and narrowed it down to either having too much oil in the engine or a dirty air filter.  There are of course other reasons but they were more on the serious side and the engine is relatively new I thought it best to tackle the simple more straightforward reasons first.

I drained some oil out of the engine as it was over the ‘full’ mark but even after this and a test we still has smoke.  Now to the air filter.  This had been changed in Chichester and had only been used for 60 hours but on close inspection it seemed relatively dirty.  I managed to remove the old one, slicing my finger in the process (too much time behind a desk, my fingers are still soft), cleaned out the air-filter case and installed the new one.  I have to say that the results were pleasing.  We are now having to motor down the Portuguese coast and no smoke detected.  I may need to vent the engine bay more as this may be part of the problem with the clogged air filter.

After the maintenance we rowed over to the town of Baiona.  We stopped on the way to speak to some fellow cruisers and then set about finding out what Baiona has to offer.  We seem to be still getting our times rather mixed up and arrived in the middle of siesta so every thing was closed and no-one was around; it was a like a ghost town.  I still cannot understand why they have siesta in the north when the temperature is not as hot as the south.  Everything closes at 14:00 until 17:00, which to me is ridiculous.

There were a couple of nice churches and one cemetery that again was closed as it was a Monday.  We asked a fellow Spaniard how far it was to walk to the other side to which she replied “45 minuets”, it was more like 2 hours.  We gave up half way and walked back to the town to meet Carlotta’s cousin for a coffee.

By now the town had sprung to life and at the first opportunity I went into a hardware store to stock up on some bits which included a new gas lantern for the cock-pit, some WD40 and an electtic fly swotter as we have been having some issues with large flying insects.  I tested it out on Carlotta to see if it worked; it did and the whole town was awoken by her screams.

We had coffee with more cousins and then headed back to the boat.  We have an early start as we need to get to Porto (Portugal) tomorrow.

My past month in Spain has been great.  We have learnt a lot about the boat and sailing these waters.  The food and hospitality we have experienced have been amazing.  The way of life here is better and if it was not for the siesta time it would be greatly improved.  I strongly recomend sailing this area and giving yourself as much time as possible to explore the Ria’s.  Unfortunately we are running out of time to get to Gran Canaria but we would have happily spent another month.

Portugal here we come.

A Weekend in with Family – Vigo – 14th and 15th September 2012

We departed Sanxenxo early to arrive at Bouzas in time to meet Carlota’s uncle for lunch at their house.Our trip went well although we were under motor for the entire journey.  There were so many other yachts out, which made a pretty sight.

We turned into the Vigo River in glorious sunshine and headed for Bouzas marina.  When we got close we thought we had indentified the correct marina but as we arrived we realised otherwise but by then it was too late to turn back.  It seemed that we had picked, by accident the most expensive marina on this River at 31 euros a night but at least the boat would be safe for the weekend.

We had another great weekend with Carlotta’s uncle who provided great hospitality in a lovely house that he had built himself 3 years back.  We shared the house with some chickens and a crazy dog called Pinto.

  

 

 

Muros to Sanxenxo – 13th September 2012

 

We departed Muros at 10:45.  Muros was such a tranquil anchorage and what looked to be a lovely town but unfortunately we could not visit due to time contraints.

We had a good sail with winds giving us a steady 12 knots from the NE.  Nothing much happening apart from lunch and we arrived at Sanxenxo by 16:00.

We dropped anchor after three attempts off the main beach and already noticed a boat anchored that had also been in St Katharine’s.  We prepared the dinghy and rowed a shore to have an iced coffee and and quick look around.

There is not much to Sanxenxo apart from the beach which is lovely.  It is true that with every degree of latitude we cover the weather improves as we now have brilliant sunshine with the temperature rising to 29 degrees  centigrade.

We went over to the modern marina development and Carlotta managed to flirt enough with the guy at the desk to get us into the showers for free.  After a few days without a shower there is nothing better than having one; I do not take them for granted anymore.

After the shower we headed back to the boat to eat pizzas and watch a film.  We have decided to spent tomorrow here as well as we are happy with the location and the beach.

Miles: 35.5

Engine: 1 hour

Lat: 42’23.86

Long:  08′ 48, 65

Corme to Muros – Wednesday 12th September 2012

Our decision to wake up early again did not happen; I have to stop with the wine in an evening.  We eventually lifted anchor at 09:30; two hours later than expected.  We were met with a fresh breeze and the forecast looked promising with 4-5 occasionally 6 North East.  Today we had a few destination options, the main thing was to pass the notorious Finistere and cover some good mileage.

We had a good sail out of the Ria but our course was putting us to far west, so the time had come to get the pole out and do some downwind sailing.  We set up our rig with not too much trouble and cruised for 3 hours doing 6-7 knots on average. Our dolphin friends again joined us for a little while.

 

We had Finisterre in sight around 15:00. The wind had now picked up to force 5 and we were making good way.  Once we cleared the headland we removed the pole with great difficulty due to the wind now increasing to force 6; I think I may have brocken my finger in the process as it hurts, has swelled to twice the size and is hardly moveable.

As we carefully approached Ria De Muros the wind died and we had a few minutes respite.  I was about to take the main down and start the engine but Carlotta said we should wait for the breeze to pick up – that it did and after we had turned into the Ria we were head on to 30 knots of wind.

 

Our first anchorage was out the question as it was too exposed so we toyed with the idea of going to a marina on the southern side of the Ria but we thought better of spending the money and opted to take a look at our second anchorage.  The anchorage is great. I am sitting here now sheltered from the wind by a huge mountain and overlooking a peaceful village whilst Carlotta cooks homemade pizzas.  Tomorrow should be an easier day but at least today we hardly motored but we both feel drained.  I think that after we have visited our friends in Portugal we will take it a bit easier instead of rushing each day to cover miles – we will see what happens.

Anecdotes:

Take your main sail down when you think it is the right time – don’t listen to others, even if the girlfriend / wife stats yelling

Dont anchor in weed – 3 attempts then we moved to sand.

Miles: 53.5

Lat: 42’46.94

Lon: 09’03.34

Engine: 1 hour 42 minutes

Ares to Ria De Corme – Tuesday 11th September 2012

We departed Ares at 14:45.  The weather forecast had forecasted a pick-up in wind speed around 17:00 so we though leaving later even if it meant arriving in the dark to Corme would be best as at least we could sail.

 

We left under main and Gennaker and had a good breeze pushing us out of the Ria although this soon died as we approached the entrance to La Coruna.  The engine went on pretty much after passing La Coruna.  I hate motoring but there was not a breath of air and certainly not the wind that had been forecasted.  All was quite (apart from the engine) until a splash occurred off the bow and the sight of a dolphin surfaced.  We were jopined by around 8 Dolphins in total who decided to put on a great display at Troskala’s bow.  It was an amazing experience to see so many of them at one time.

 

Our Dolphin friends left us after 20 minutes, which was sad as all we now had to look forward to was the sound of the engine for another 5 hours.  We passed another British boat on-route and said a brief hello; they ended up following us in to Corme.

 

We approached the entrance to Corme around 22:00 in complete darkness.  We knew from our almanac that there was an anchorage and a Fish Haven in the middle.  As we entered all we could see were cliffs and then suddenly out of the dark approached a mussle platform, a wooden platform about 30 feet long and 10 feet wide.  We left it to starboard missing it by inches.  After that Carlotta was at the bow with a torch and I edged my way tentatively towards the apparent anchorage.

We were awfully close to the rocks but using the only space designated.  We were also anchoring on rock so when trying to set our hook we had several attempt’s as all I could here was it grinding the rock on the seabed.

 

We eventually sorted ourselves out by 23:00 and after a glass of wine (or a bottle) we settled into bed ready for an early start the next morning

Miles: 37.0

Lat: 43’15.71N

Lon: 08’57.34W

Engine Hours: 6 hours 12 minutes 9 (Should have brought a speed boat)